Dr. Thelma Awori, the eminent Liberian-born educator, now a citizen of Ugandan, yesterday told the Daily Observer that she recently accompanied a number of Ugandan women farmers to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There they were asked, “What do you want us to do for you?”
The women spoke up. One of them told of how backbreaking using the hoe was to them in digging their farms. Said the women, farming with the hoe made them tired and caused them to get old before time. They, therefore, want the hoe replaced with tillers and tractors.
Their plea impressed the Chair Person of the African Union, Madam Nkosazama Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, who immediately took up the cause with African leaders, most of whom are men. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first elected and presently the only woman President on the continent.
Madam Zuma told the Ugandan women that yes, it was time that the hoe be placed in the museum and replaced by tillers and tractors.
She did not rest until one day, in an elaborate ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda, she presented a hoe to President Paul Kagame to be placed in the museum.
Since then, Chairperson Zuma has encouraged African leaders to do everything possible to help provide tillers and tractors for women around the continent.
We seize this opportunity to call on all African leaders, beginning with our own President Sirleaf, to take the lead in ensuring that our women farmers are empowered with tillers and tractors to help alleviate the drudgery (labor, toil) which they have to endure daily on the farm in order to feed Africa’s growing population.
Remember, United Nations statistics indicate that nearly 70% of all food produced in Africa is done by women. They comprise the majority of African farmers. But they do not only farm. They also sell the produce not only in the marketplaces and along the roadsides throughout the country, but also in the urban markets.
Ellen herself used to drive the tractor at the Booker Washington Institute when her husband, Doc Sirleaf, taught Agriculture and farm mechanics there. So she knows about tractors and how they can make farming a lot easier and far more efficient, productive and rewarding.
We call on Agriculture Minister Moses Zinnah to join the President in finding ways to make tillers and tractors available to our women farmers first, and then to all farmers around the country.
Dr. Thelma Awori has reached out to women throughout the continent and helped many of them to travel, some even to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She arranged a trip for Liberian women to Mozambique. The Liberian Marketing Association President Lusu Sloan told this newspaper recently that Dr. Awori has taken her to most places around the world that she (Lusu) has visited.
In her extensive interview at the Observer’s new headquarters yesterday, Dr. Awori said the women of the world had made considerable progress following several UN conferences in Beijing, China and Mexico, South America. Women’s voices have been keenly listened to since then, and women have continued to make serious impact in many parts of the world. One such impact is the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first elected woman President. Whatever one may say, Dr. Awori declared, Ellen’s election “is a global phenomenon.”
Dr. Awori expressed the strong conviction that the men of the world should stop mistreating and abusing women; rather, they should give every encouragement to women and help them to achieve self-fulfillment in every sphere of life.
On this International Women’s Day, the Daily Observer calls on all African governments to do everything possible to promote the welfare of women, especially in education, better health, maternity and childcare. Women should also be encouraged to develop entrepreneurial capacity to increase their incomes to better care for themselves and their families and fulfill their own aspirations.
The AU, ECOWAS, the Mano River Union, in addition to the United Nations, should encourage greater involvement of women in decision making in the myriad of services and benefits that these organizations provide for the peoples of member countries.